Deep Linking in iOS App: Maximizing User Retention

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In today’s digital landscape, app developers face a number of challenges when it comes to retaining users. One key strategy for improving user retention is deep linking, which allows developers to create a more seamless and engaging user experience. In this post, we’ll explore the benefits of deep linking for iOS apps and provide strategies for maximizing user retention with this powerful tool.

What is Deep Linking?

Deep linking is a way of linking to a specific piece of content within an app. Unlike traditional links, which simply open an app, deep links take users to a specific page within an app, providing a more personalized and streamlined experience. A deep link is a specific type of hyperlink that takes a user directly to a specific page or feature within an app, rather than just opening the app itself. Deep links are important for iOS app development because they improve user experience by providing a quick and seamless way to access specific content within an app.

Deep linking is particularly useful for mobile apps, where users often have limited attention spans and little patience for navigating through menus and screens. By providing a direct link to specific content, deep linking can help keep users engaged and reduce frustration.

Why does the iOS app need a deep link?

Before the advent of deep linking, when a user tapped a link to an app, the app would open to its default page or screen. With deep linking, however, developers can specify exactly which page or screen within the app should be opened when the user taps a link.

For example, let’s say a user receives a link to a product page within a shopping app. If the app is not deep-linked, the user will have to open the app and navigate to the product page manually. But if the app is deep-linked, the user can simply tap the link and be taken directly to the product page within the app.

Deep linking is especially important for app developers who want to improve user engagement and retention. By providing a seamless experience for users, deep links can help increase user engagement and encourage users to spend more time within the app. Additionally, deep links can be used to drive user acquisition by providing a quick and easy way for users to download and access an app.

Basic Deep Link Implementation

Deep links in iOS are a way to open specific content or functionality within an app by tapping a link. When a user taps a deep link, the operating system will launch the corresponding app and take the user to the specific content or functionality associated with the link.

To handle deep links in iOS, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Register your app to handle the URL scheme: In your app’s Info.plist file, add a new URL scheme to handle the deep link. The scheme should match the scheme in the link. For example, if your app’s deep link is “myapp://page1”, the scheme in the Info.plist file should be “myapp”.
  2. Handle the deep link in your app: In your app’s code, you will need to handle the deep link by parsing the URL and taking the appropriate action based on the information in the link.
  3. Test the deep link: Test the deep link to ensure that it opens the correct content or functionality within your app.

Here’s an example code snippet for handling a deep link in iOS:

func application(_ application: UIApplication, open url: URL, options: [UIApplication.OpenURLOptionsKey : Any] = [:]) -> Bool {
    if url.scheme == "myapp" {
        if == "page1" {
            // Handle deep link to page 1
            return true
        } else if == "page2" {
            // Handle deep link to page 2
            return true
    return false

This code snippet checks if the URL scheme is “myapp” and then checks the host of the URL to determine which page to navigate to within the app.

Benefits of Deep Linking for User Retention

Deep linking provides a number of benefits for user retention, including:

  1. Improved user experience: Deep linking takes users directly to the content they want to see, reducing the time and effort required to find what they’re looking for. This can improve user satisfaction and reduce frustration, which in turn can lead to higher user retention.
  2. Personalized content: By linking to specific content, deep linking allows developers to personalize the user experience, providing users with the content that is most relevant to them. This can help build user loyalty and keep users coming back to the app.
  3. Increased engagement: Deep linking can encourage users to spend more time within an app, as they can quickly and easily access the content they want to see. This increased engagement can lead to higher retention rates and more frequent use of the app.

Strategies for Maximizing User Retention with Deep Linking

So how can app developers maximize the benefits of deep linking for user retention? Here are a few key strategies to consider:

  1. Implement deep linking throughout the app: Deep linking should be used consistently throughout an app, providing links to all key content and features. This can help ensure that users have a seamless and personalized experience, increasing the chances that they will return to the app.
  2. Promote deep linking to users: Users may not be aware of the benefits of deep linking, so it’s important to promote this feature and educate users on how to use it. This can be done through in-app messages, push notifications, or other forms of communication.
  3. Measure and analyze deep linking performance: Developers should track the performance of deep links and analyze user behavior to determine which links are most effective at driving engagement and retention. This information can be used to optimize deep linking strategies over time.
  4. Use deep linking in marketing campaigns: Deep linking can also be used to drive user acquisition, by providing links to specific content or features within an app. This can help attract new users and increase the likelihood that they will become long-term users.

Common Use cases of Deep Link

Deep linking is a powerful tool for improving the user experience in iOS apps. Here are some of the most common use cases of deep linking in iOS apps:

  1. Content sharing: Deep linking is often used for content sharing, allowing users to share a link to a specific piece of content within an app. This can include articles, videos, or other types of content, and can help drive traffic to the app while providing a more personalized experience for the user.
  2. Push notifications: Deep links can also be used in push notifications to take users directly to specific content within an app. For example, a news app might send a notification for a breaking story and provide a deep link to the article within the app.
  3. Onboarding: Deep linking can also be used in onboarding to help users get started with an app. For example, a fitness app might provide a deep link to a specific workout routine as part of the onboarding process.
  4. User retention: Deep linking can help improve user retention by providing a more engaging and personalized experience. For example, a shopping app might provide deep links to specific products, making it easier for users to find what they’re looking for and increasing the likelihood that they will return to the app.
  5. Referral programs: Deep links can be used in referral programs to incentivize users to share the app with others. For example, a food delivery app might offer a discount to both the referrer and the referred user, with the deep link taking the referred user directly to the discount offer within the app.

Keep in Mind

Implementing deep linking in a large-scale iOS app requires careful planning and a strategic approach. Here are some steps to consider when implementing deep linking in a large-scale iOS app:

  1. Identify key use cases: The first step in implementing deep linking is to identify the key use cases for the app. This could include content sharing, push notifications, onboarding, user retention, or referral programs, as well as any other use cases specific to the app.
  2. Determine the scope of the implementation: Once the key use cases have been identified, the next step is to determine the scope of the deep linking implementation. This could involve creating deep links for all key content and features within the app, or it could focus on specific use cases or user segments.
  3. Choose a deep linking platform: There are a number of deep linking platforms available for iOS apps, each with its own features and capabilities. Some popular options include Branch, Firebase Dynamic Links, and Apple’s Universal Links. Researching and testing these platforms can help determine which is the best fit for the app’s needs.
  4. Implement deep links in the app: Once a deep linking platform has been selected, the next step is to implement deep links in the app. This can involve adding code to handle incoming deep links, creating unique URLs for each piece of content or feature, and testing the implementation to ensure it works as expected.
  5. Monitor and analyze deep linking performance: After the implementation is complete, it’s important to monitor and analyze the performance of the deep links. This can involve tracking user behavior, such as the number of clicks and conversions, as well as any issues or errors that arise.
  6. Optimize the deep linking strategy: Based on the performance data, the deep linking strategy can be optimized over time. This could involve tweaking the deep link URLs, adjusting the messaging or timing of push notifications, or refining the referral program incentives.


Deep linking is a powerful tool for improving user retention in iOS apps. By providing a more personalized and streamlined experience, deep linking can help keep users engaged and loyal to an app over the long term. With the right strategies in place, app developers can maximize the benefits of deep linking and create a more successful and sustainable app.

✍️ Written by Ishtiak Ahmed

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